Building your author platform certainly doesn’t have to be centered around authors. I work mostly with authors and publishers in my Virtual Assistant business, and I don’t think there is enough emphasis on encouraging other authors to establish their platform.
What is this “platform” that I speak of?
Well, it can be made up of many elements including your social media presence as well as your author pages…or your podcast pages, or really just whatever you’re into. Your platform entails the entirety of your online web presence.
I suppose that offline things can be a platform as well, but we will stick to our focus by concentrating on the web.
Why Indie Authors Need a Platform
In traditional publishing, your publisher and agent handle most of your platform for you. They’re in charge of marketing and selling your books as well as furthering your reach as an author.
As an independent author and self-publisher, all of that responsibility falls on you.
Expanding your presence on the web as wide as possible will help you in that endeavor.
Your readership will look for you online, especially on Social Media. You want to be visible in the places where your readers hang out online because that is also the catalyst for gaining new readers.
The strength of your platform will dictate your sales.
What Are the Elements of a Good Author Platform?
Well, you don’t want to overwhelm yourself trying to do everything at once. You most likely already have a Social Media presence, so why not start optimizing those accounts to be the beginnings of your platform?
At a minimum, I suggest having a Facebook Page (not profile) and a Twitter account. That goes for ANY business online, not just authors.
After Google and YouTube, Facebook is the next largest audience online. I suggest creating a Page rather than using your personal Profile. If you’re not on Facebook yet, understand that you will have to create a Profile before you can build your author Page. Pages cannot stand alone on Facebook, they must have an owner.
It’s quite easy to make a page. Just click Create next to your Home button at the top of your Facebook account, and
Facebook will walk you through setting up your new Page. It’s super easy.
As for Twitter, I know a lot of people balk at the mention of this network. Why?
Because I just don’t think they understand how to use Twitter. I know I didn’t when I first began. However, it can be an important element for authors.
It is considered to be a “micro-blogging” platform. When it first started, users were limited to 180 characters to express their thought, link, quote, or whatever they were sharing. As a result of that limitation, lots of third-party sites arrived on the scene like link shorteners and picture hosts. Twitter didn’t have a native image feature. All of that came later along with the new 240 character limit.
I’ve been on Twitter since January of 2008. I love the network and think it has so much potential although I find some of their censorship rules don’t align with my belief in free speech. Let’s not wax political.
As an author, the limited post length can really show off your skills to convey messages using as few words as possible. Twitter is also the perfect place to share quotes (even from your own books!), links, messages, and so much more!
Tie everything together with just the right hashtag, and boom, perfection.
I cover Twitter in much more detail in Episode 28 of The Candid Cashflow Podcast. I sincerely encourage you to check out that episode. I also shared a free ebook that shows you how to pretty much put your Twitter account on autopilot even if you don’t know what to tweet. Be sure to grab the show notes for links to that and more at HeyYoAva.com/Episode52.
A good author platform includes a website and a few Social Media profiles done well. Once you have this mastered, then you can consider expanding your reach.
Where in the World Do You Start?
We sort of covered this already, but start right where you are. A good number of people already have Facebook. If that’s you, start there. Create your author Page, and invite your friends to check it out and give you a Like. That alone will build you a fledgling audience.
If you can engage your tribe on Facebook with your offering as an author, you’ll have it made.
This is something I majorly struggled with. It seemed like no one cared about my books or what I was saying about writing until I did this one thing…
I started doing sessions on Facebook where I would ask my audience to give me a word and I’d write a poem or maybe a 100-word short story for them based on a word or phrase they gave me. This was something they could easily share on their Facebook, and they just LOVED it.
I’ve had people come back to me years later and ask me to help them find the piece I wrote for them because they lost it. Luckily, Facebook saves everything, and you can even download it.
I even built an email list from my Facebook friends and family that I would send advance, free copies of my books in exchange for honest reviews. I figured I could sell my books to strangers…why not give them to friends and family. It works okay. It’s not necessarily something I would recommend for everyone.
Once you’ve built a presence where you are, then you can consider expanding. Don’t wait on building a website.
I know this can be scary for some, especially when you’re technically challenged, but it’s easier now than it’s ever been.
Choosing a Platform for Your Website
I’m a diehard WordPress fangirl, and I’ll discuss why in a few minutes.
Honestly, WordPress has a steep learning curve.
However, if you have experience with other blogging platforms, that should give you a leg up. Before WordPress, I used LiveJournal and Blogger. So, when I switched to WordPress, I didn’t have much difficulty figuring it out. It’s a well-documented platform, and Google Search holds pretty much every answer you seek regarding WordPress.
That being said, I am starting to realize that WordPress isn’t for everyone.
The main point here is to have a website.
Do you really need one? Yes. Why? Because you need a central hub for your business online. Amazon isn’t it. When someone buys your product via Amazon, they are an Amazon customer. Unless you capture their contact information somehow, it’s possible you’ll never see them again.
Sure, you can do this by including links in your books to your email opt-in form without ever having a website, but then what?
Absolutely include an opt-in in your book, but if that opt-in doesn’t link to your website, then you should have your website link right there beside it!
If Amazon banned you tomorrow, where would your readers find you? If you have one, on your website! You can even sell your books directly from your website in addition to Amazon.
When you’re ready to create your website, choose the platform that is the least overwhelming to you. How will you know what that is? Research! I suggest checking out some YouTube videos.
Check out Wix.com for sure. It’s one of the most user-friendly platforms out there for creating websites. The caveat with things like Wix is that you never quite own your website. They do. So, it’s always possible they could remove it without notice. That’s why I like WordPress. It’s mine, and no one can tell me what I can put on it. It if gets deleted, that’s going to be due to a user error on my part.
Do your due diligence. Play around with some of these platforms. Wix is free to start and you can get a feel for their interface. WordPress has a free option at WordPress.com. It’s a lot different from self-hosted WordPress, but you can get an idea of how WordPress works.
Just to clarify, WordPress has two products: WordPress.com is a platform where you can create a free blog as a subdomain of wordpress.com, so it would be yourblog.wordpress.com. You can use your own domain as well, but WordPress.com has limited functionality compared to WordPress.org or self-hosted WordPress.
They also don’t allow affiliate links, so monetizing a blog on WordPress.com is quite difficult.
WordPress.org is the home of the open-source software that powers self-hosted WordPress websites. It’s completely free to download and use. You’ll also find the WordPress Codex (extensive documentation of the platform), Plugin Library, and more at WordPress.org.
Why am I so adamant about WordPress? It’s simply the best. You can do anything with it.
WordPress powers 30% of the Top 10 Million websites online. That speaks for itself, but let’s go further.
WordPress is free and open-source. You’ll need a domain and hosting to use it, but these things can both be obtained cheaply. I’ll talk more about the cost of running a WordPress site later in the show.
You can create either a static website or a robust blog with WordPress. Its customization and functionality are extended to infinity and beyond through an extensive library of plugins, many of which are free.
I have built WordPress sites that handle e-commerce, memberships, podcasts, videos, forums, and more! Sometimes, all on the same website!
If you can imagine it, you can accomplish it on WordPress.
Is WordPress Hard to Learn?
Yes. Er, no. Er, I don’t know.
It’s been a long time since I started with WordPress and it was a lot different when I first started. I’d venture to say harder to use. Back then, if you wanted to add a theme or plugin, you actually had to install it via FTP. Now all of that is built right into the interface.
You can install plugins and themes direct from your Dashboard.
I think if you’ve never used any kind of blogging platform before, then WordPress will be very overwhelming.
However, if you have used WordPress.com or Blogger, things will be more familiar to you.
For the Cashflow Nation, I actually have an extensive tutorial that I wrote on learning WordPress. It’s called, well, Learn WordPress. That will be available to you absolutely free in the show notes at HeyYoAva.com/Episode52. It is more than 130 pages of instructions and screenshots that take you step-by-step through WordPress’ Dashboard.
There will also be an episode of The Candid Cashflow Podcast coming soon with more specifics on getting started with WordPress. So, now is the time to subscribe. Find us in your favorite listening app at HeyYoAva.com/candidcashflow.
I’ll be updating that guide to include the latest information regarding the new Gutenberg Editor in WordPress which is quite possibly the biggest change to the platform since it was launched.
How to Get Started with WordPress
The first steps are to buy a domain and hosting where your site will call home.
Most web hosts these days include free one-click installs for WordPress which makes it super easy to have a WordPress site within seconds of initiating the setup.
Have you ever noticed how web hosts are like cable or Internet providers? It’s hard to figure out which one is the best because of the cacophony of good and bad reviews that seem to cancel each other out?
I also use and recommend Namecheap for both domains and hosting.
If you’re looking for a one-stop-shop to handle it all, Namecheap has you covered with:
- SSL Certificates
You’ll be surprised at the low price of getting online.
How Much Does All This Cost!?!
Hosting ALL of my websites, a few of my own and several for clients, it costs me about $203 per YEAR.
My domain is around $12 per YEAR.
So, for less than $220 per YEAR, I have a website that is the central hub to everything I do online. I can pretty much take it any direction I want. I can sell products, I can promote my books, anything I want.
If you can afford to pay upfront for a year of hosting, it gets even cheaper.
Making sure that you have an author platform is really a no-brainer. With it, you have a place on the worldwide web trumpeting about who you are and what you do even while you sleep.
My passion is to help you, author or not, build a platform online that can be the central hub of you becoming financially free.